Kerry-(Graham)-Lieberman Bill a Huge Payoff to Big Business

Washington, D.C., May 11, 2010—As Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) prepare to introduce their long-delayed energy-rationing legislation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute calls on Americans to remember what is really at stake: government control over energy use and massive kickbacks to favored corporations.

“The bill crafted by Kerry and Lieberman – and sometimes Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – manages to have something to harm everyone except big business special interests,” said Competitive Enterprise Institute Director of Energy Policy Myron Ebell. “Environmentalists know it will have no discernible impact on the climate, but it will reward favored companies with massive windfall profits.”  

Senator Kerry has admitted that the bill was written in close consultation with the companies and industries to be regulated, including the Edison Electric Institute and major oil companies. Kerry recently remarked “Ironically, we’ve been working very closely with some of these oil companies in the last months,” referring to BP, Conoco Phillips, and Shell. This process could only be considered “ironic” by someone unacquainted with the history of special interest lobbying in Washington, D.C.

“Cap and trade regulation, far from disciplining the energy sector, is poised to become one of the greatest wealth transfers from consumers to private corporations in the nation’s history,” said Ebell. “General Electric, Exelon, BP, Goldman Sachs, and Duke Energy will make out like bandits because of provisions they have written. That’s not democracy or capitalism.  It’s political corruption and crony capitalism.”

As public awareness of what cap and trade would cost American consumers has grown, the bill’s sponsors have responded not by amending their proposals, but by trying to fool the public with shifting terminology. Senator Kerry at one point renamed gasoline taxes “linked fees.” Sen. Lieberman remarked in April he was dropping the phrase “cap and trade” in favor of “emissions reduction targets,” going so far as to joke about the in-name-only difference by asking a reporter “Remember the Artist Previously Known as Prince?”

“Lieberman is not the only one playing word games,” said CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis. On-again, off-again co-sponsor Lindsey Graham recently said in an interview that he no longer considers the Kerry-Lieberman legislation either a cap-and-trade bill or a global warming bill because “There is no bipartisan support for a cap-and-trade bill based on global warming.”

“So, because climate alarm and cap-and-tax are no longer polling well, Graham now pretends he can change the bill’s nature simply by rebranding it. I’ve got news for these guys,” said Lewis. “Everybody knew it was Prince even before the Artist Formerly Known As changed his name back to plain old Prince. An energy tax by any other name is just as foul.”

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest group that studies the intersection of regulation, risk, and markets.